Intellectual Property – Trade Secrets, Copyrights and Trademarks

Many professionals have many questions about the protection of their materials and their name. What they are concerned about is what we call ‘intellectual property’. Intellectual property can account for 70% of a company’s value, so it’s important to not only understand it, but also understand how best to protect it. This article will cover what intellectual property is, explain each one in a bit of detail, discuss how the Internet has impacted it, and how to protect it.

Intellectual Property – what is it

The definition of intellectual property is basically any knowledge, information or idea that is important to the competitive success of a company. Examples include a trade name, logo, graphic, slogan, advertising materials, product literature, software, an invention. Even things like customer lists or supplier lists can be considered intellectual property.

Trade Secrets – Keep Them Hidden!

A trade secret is any information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process that provides a company with a competitive advantage that others do not have access to. To qualify as a trade secret, the business/owner must make reasonable efforts to keep it secret. Sales and marketing plans can be considered trade secrets, just like sales data in computer files. Probably the best example of a trade secret is the Coca-Cola formula. For health and fitness professionals, a trade secret may be a particular piece of survey information that has helped them uncover a market need that no one else has discovered yet. This information does not have to be common knowledge to be considered a trade secret. However, once the professional has taken steps to market to that audience, as a result of the survey, it will no longer be a secret.

Another example of a trade secret could be a particular client program that is different from what others have created. It can be a particular workout or a particular eating plan; some type of program or method that is unique and generally not known or discovered by others.

Copyrights: Do You Really Need Them?

Of greater importance to health and fitness professionals is copyright law. Many clients ask me about this when they are creating brochures and the answer depends on how much you feel your materials need protection. Copyright law applies to pieces of work such as books, works of art, software, websites, musical recordings, magazines, plays, dramatic performances, and films. An easy way to protect works informally is to include the “©” symbol, followed by the name of the author/publisher, the year of publication. You can also include the phrase “All rights reserved.”

Copyright protection gives the original author exclusive legal rights to the economic benefits of the work. They can reproduce copies, develop derivative works based on the original product, such as workshops, for example, distribute copies, present it publicly, and display it publicly. Most importantly, the copyright in the work prevents others from copying, distributing, performing, or displaying the work without the permission of the author/publisher.

Health and fitness professionals often ask if they can legally copy materials to give to their clients, and the answer is “it depends.” Many educational materials will include a statement that they may be reproduced for educational purposes, and other materials will include a statement that as long as the original author and contact information is included, the materials may be copied and distributed. If a person is not sure, they should contact the author or publisher.

If you have educational material, should you go through the formal copyright registration process? Well, to decide this, you must first determine if you qualify. There are three basic requirements for copyright protection: 1) the work must be fixed on a tangible medium (written on paper, on a computer disk, or recorded on tape), 2) the work must be original, and 3) It must contain a little creativity. Legally, once a work has been fixed on a tangible medium, it is copyrighted; not even a notice in the material is required! However, if the author wants to prove infringement in a US court, the copyright owner must register the copyright with the Copyright Registry in Washington, DC. The process is simple and very affordable, so the author only needs to determine to what extent he needs to protect his work.

Examples where simply listing copyright protection is sufficient are educational brochures or any other similar material for customer education. If a professional has created a particular work that they would like to expand into workshops, or is something they would eventually like to license, it would probably be worth formally registering the copyright. If you are not sure whether your work should be copyrighted, it would be wise to consult with a copyright attorney, but it is not necessary to use an attorney to apply for copyright protection. However, books are definitely copyrighted, and the most recent court ruling on royalties owed to authors who post their works on the Internet indicates that authors who want to be paid for such works must also register.

Protecting your name with a trademark

Trademark protection is big business! Consider companies like Nike with its ‘trademark’ swoosh or the golden arches of McDonalds. A trademark is any word, phrase, name, symbol, sound, or device that identifies and distinguishes the products or services of one company from another.

When considering trademark protection, you can register a trademark only in your state or at the federal level. In general, it is recommended to go with the federal trademark, for broad protection, but then also apply for the state trademark while you wait for the federal process. However, not all trademarks are eligible for federal registration, such as descriptive marks. If you’re starting a business and have built a unique name that you’d like to protect for years to come, this may be a strategy you want to take. However, the process of obtaining a registered trademark can be complex and it is recommended to use an experienced attorney for the process. Examples of what you might want to register could also include a particular logo, slogan or phrase.

the Internet

On the Internet, domain names, which are website addresses, are granted on a first-come, first-served basis. As a result, some people started buying name domains registered by large companies and then tried to sell those domains to the companies for large amounts of money. There was no protection of trademarked names when it came to domain names. Anyone could use the domain name, for example.

As a result, Congress passed the Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999 to make it illegal for a person to register a domain name, with the bad faith intent to profit from the name, if the domain is identical to or very similar to a distinctive trademark. or identical or similar to a famous brand.

To properly protect your intellectual property, you must register or take specific steps to protect it. Ultimately, it’s up to you to know the law when you’re concerned with protecting what you created. When deciding how far to take your protection, be sure to consider how important this property is to supporting your revenue and competitive advantage. Sometimes it might not be important, like a simple informational brochure, but other times it might be extremely important, like writing a book and planning to create workshops and programs around that book. As you build your business, it’s important to understand the role your creation will play in growing that business.

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